The Limitations of Social Democracy, or Social Democracy as Possibily the Lesser Evil

John Clarke, fomrer major organizer for Ontario Coalition Against Poverty,  posted on Facebook yesterday the following:

John Clarke

Watching social democratic parties operate today, makes you appreciate that the political tendency they represent was at its most effective at a time of relative class compromise, when they could give working class people some of what they wanted without risking all out confrontation with capitalist interests.

A period of regression and austerity, however, is not a good time for social democracy. Since the fundamental task of meeting the needs of capitalism is non-negotiable, the only political role available is that of the lesser evil. This has created a situation where reformism can offer no reforms. Social democracy has become a pub with no beer.

Clarke’s views converge with mine once again–but within limits. Firstly, his critique remains vague and at a very abstract level. Which social democrats is he criticizing? What organizations? It is necessary to engage in detail with the limitations of social democracy in its various forms given the nature of modern capitalism. For example, are not most unions social democratic organizations? What limtiations do they have? What about the organization Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives? What about the organization Progressive Economic Forum? What of Clarke’s former social-democratic views?

Secondly, as for the lesser evil, when voting, it may or may not be necessary to vote for such social-democratic organizations. It depends on the context, and that context can vary. If there are viable radical alternatives, voting for such alternatives may be better than voting for social democrats. It depends, of course, what is meant by “viable alternatives” under the circumstances. If there are no viable alternatives, then it may be necessary to vote for social democrats–while constantly criticizing their limiations. Thus, I voted for the New Democratic Party (NDP) both at the federal and provincial levels here in Canada. Such alternatives as Socialist Worker (dogmatic view of the need for a general strike independently of circumstances), Socialist Alternative (reformist and opportunist when it comes to not criticizing the pairing of the concept of fairness with the campaign for $15) and FightBack (they had the illusion that burrowing within the NDP would somehow be effective–these alternatives were not viable.

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